Cymru and the Unofficial Football World Championships

… and Cymru are 13-times World Champions!

You many think we’ve gone a little mad with the above headline … but it’s true!

It has been 33 years since Cymru was crowned Unofficial Football World Champions, but if you’re still confused, please read on!

What is the Unofficial Football World Championship?

This is a very well-researched concept carried out by Paul Brown, who had the idea of working out the current World Champions in a simple and innovative way! It is also current and doesn’t become dated like a World Cup win can be.

As Paul states on the Unofficial Football World Championships (UFWC) website:

The UFWC is an international football competition contested in a simple boxing-style title system. Winners of title matches become title holders and Unofficial Football World Champions. An alternative to the World Cup, UFWC lineage goes back to the very first international match in 1872.

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How did it all begin?

It was the very shy Scots that gave Paul the idea. They had always claimed to be Unofficial World Champions when beating England in 1967, and in doing so became the first team to beat everyone’s old enemy since winning the World Cup the year before (bet you didn’t know that). So, Paul decided to travel way back to the beginning of time to follow this idea through retrospectively and continue it through to the present day. Basically, whoever beats the current champions then becomes champions themselves – simple!

The story began in 1872 when the first international match took place between England and Scotland. This game ended in a 0-0 draw, but the next game the following year was won 4-2 by England, who in effect became the very first holders. The title wasn’t held for too long as the Scots beat them in 1874, so they became title holders. Every UFWC title game since has been documented, accounting for nearly 1,000 international matches to date, the latest being France’s dramatic Nations League Final win over Spain.

All games, including tournament games, qualifiers and friendlies, are counted. In tournament knockout games, extra-time and penalties count, not the score after 90 minutes.

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Cymru’s early contribution

Cymru became the 3rd nation to play international football in 1876; their first UFWC match ending in a 1-1 draw with England in 1895. It wasn’t until Cymru’s 13th UFWC attempt in 1907 that Y Dreigiau became Champions. Up until the beginning of 2nd World War, Cymru held the title on 12 occasions, either winning it from another team or by defending it successfully (through a win or draw) in their next game as reigning Champions.

Cymru has played for the title 69 times, mostly in the early days of football as very few other teams played the home nations. As UFWC holders going into the 1934 World Cup, Cymru was still World Champions after the tournament as none of the British teams took part, even though Italy had just won the tournament!

The golden generation of Welsh football was undoubtedly the 1930’s (not 1958, 2016 or 2021) when Cymru won the British Championship four times. In fact, the last silverware won was the British Championship outright in 1937.

During the 1920’s and 30’s, Cymru was UFWC holders nine times. It was only because the subversive FAW had followed the English into leaving FIFA for political reasons that Cymru didn’t take part in the first three World Cups of 1930, 1934 and 1938. Thankfully, the FAW has since grown some teeth and are now an independent body and very professional in their current thinking.

Could Cymru have won the World Cup in the 1930’s? Absolutely, no doubt, but we will never know for sure!

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Cymru’s record since 1945

Since those heady days, and mainly because of the growth in the number of countries taking part in the international game (and not because we were rubbish!), Cymru has only played six UFWC matches in total since 1945. Defeats in 1948, 1949 and 1966 to England, Scotland and England again was followed by a 2-2 draw against England at Wembley in 1975, David Johnson denying Cymru the honour of becoming the new ‘World Champions’ with a late equaliser.

Cymru’s crowning glory came in June 1988 when an Ian Rush strike beat Italy in Brescia, a remarkable result as the Azzurri was preparing for that summer’s Euros, Cymru having failed to qualify, again! Italy had been UFWC holders for nine games at that point, having defeated 1986 World Cup winners, Argentina, and then going on an eight-game unbeaten run. Therefore, the UFWC title was not up for grabs the summer of the 1988 European Championships as the UFWC holders (Cymru!!) had not qualified, a similar situation to 1934.

Cymru’s next game, the first and only defence of the title since the war, saw a 1-0 to the Netherlands in a World Cup Qualifier in September 1988, Ruud Gullit scoring the only goal.

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Cymru’s UFWC Record

As mentioned earlier, Cymru has taken part in a total of 70 UWFC games where the title has been on the line, the latest being during the Euros in June 2021. 13 of those games has seen Cymru either win the title (T) or retain it with a win/draw (R).

Those 13 games are listed here, winning 12 and drawing 1. You will read later that Cymru is currently ranked 17th in the UFWC table as a result of these 12 wins.

Game 1: 04/03/1907   Cymru 1 Scotland 0   (T)

Game 2: 18/03/1907   England 1 Cymru 1   (R)

lost to Scotland next game

Game 3: 01/03/1909   Cymru 3 Scotland 2   (T)

lost to England next game

Game 4: 04/02/1922   Cymru 2 Scotland 1   (T)

lost to England next game

Game 5: 16/02/1924   Cymru 2 Scotland 0   (T)

Game 6: 03/03/1924   England 1 Cymru 2 (R)

Game 7: 15/03/1924   N.Ireland 0 Cymru 2   (R)

lost to Scotland next game

Game 8: 04/02/1928   N.Ireland 1 Cymru 2   (T)

lost to Scotland next game

Game 9: 15/11/1933   England 1 Cymru 2 (T)

lost to England next game

Game 10: 02/12/1936   Scotland 1 Cymru 2   (T)

Game 11: 17/03/1937   Cymru 4 N.Ireland 1   (R)

Game 12: 30/10/1937   Cymru 2 Scotland 1   (R)

lost to England next game

Game 13: 04/06/1988   Italy 0 Cymru 1   (T)

lost to Netherlands next game

Cymru had never taken part in a UFWC game since that Dutch defeat in September 1988, until that unsuccessful challenge in Rome in June 2021. Members of The Red Wall weren’t too disheartened though, as the 1-0 loss meant Cymru would still progress to the knockout stages for the 2nd successive Euros. There will be other opportunities!

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World Champions, but not UFWC Champions!

This has happened on several occasions, but the most controversial was in 1994 when Romania took the UFWC title into the World Cup. Yet again, it should have been Cymru in the States, but that’s another sad and tragic story for another day!

Within Group A, Romania beat Colombia but then lost to Switzerland. The Swiss held the title for four days, but then lost to Colombia in their last group game. The Colombians were the only team from the four in Group A not to qualify for the last-16 due to their solitary win but were UFWC title holders due to that win over the Swiss. Although Brazil won the 1994 World Cup, the Colombians took the UFWC title home to South America.

That wasn’t enough though to stop the shooting of Andrés Escobar, who was killed on his return to Colombia after his own goal contributed to their elimination from the tournament in America. If only the perpetrators had known about UFWC!

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Recent Champions

In all, 49 different nations have become Champions over the years, including Curaçao (then known as Netherlands Antilles), the smallest to hold the title. Others to have held the title have been footballing giants like Venezuela, Georgia, Zimbabwe and, as recent as 2013, North Korea. The title tends to stay in continents for months and years at a time.

Going into the 2014 World Cup, Uruguay were holders but were beaten by Costa Rica in their first group game, who surprisingly went on an unbeaten run, winning the group stage of the tournament against Uruguay, Italy and England. They then secured a last-16 win against Greece before knocked out in the quarter-final by Netherlands on penalties. The Dutch were in turn were beaten by Argentina who then lost to Germany in the World Cup Final.

In their first game as both World Cup and UFWC holders, the Germans lost to Argentina in a re-match of the 2014 final and the UFWC title was continually held by a South American nation, including Chile right through the 2017 China Cup, and Peru on an unbeaten streak from August 2017 through to the 2018 World Cup. During the tournament, the title switched from Peru to Denmark to Croatia and finally to France as a result of winning the World Cup Final.

Since the French won the World Cup in Russia, the UFWC title has gone from Les Bleus to the Netherlands and then onto Germany, who then held it for a few games before Oranje got their revenge and regained their title. They successfully defended it six times within their Euro2020 qualifying group, but then lost it to the Italians during the 2020 Nations League.

The Azzurri were still UFWC holders going into the re-scheduled Euro2020 tournament (held in 2021). They continued their long unbeaten run on the way to winning the tournament, and retaining their UFWC title, even surpassing their national record of 30 successive unbeaten games dating back to Vittorio Pozzo’s famous World Cup winning side of the 1930’s.

After a world-record 37 unbeaten games, the Azzurri eventually lost their UFWC title in the 2021 Nations League semi-final to the Spanish La Furia Roja, who days later lost their new title and the Nations League Final to Les Bleus of France.

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The UFWC World Rankings

Looking at the UFWC competition from a Welsh angle, Cymru is currently joint 17th in the World Rankings, together with Austria, another giant of the game in the 1930’s. The Wunderteam finished 4th in the 1934 World Cup and runners-up in the 1936 Olympics, losing to Italy both times. They never fulfilled their potential as they were forced to ‘unite’ with Germany for the 1938 World Cup! As in 1934, Cymru never took part in 1938; could the wonderful Red Wall have been celebrating ruling the world back then perhaps?

As countries are ranked on the number of UFWC games won, Cymru is currently on 12 wins in UFWC games contested over the years. A draw still sees a country retain their title, and able to defend the title again, but it doesn’t add to their points total. Only a UFWC win can enable a country to add to their tally and possibly climb the table.

As Scotland and England were the first two teams to play international football in the early days, the Scots are unsurprisingly top of the table. I always find it baffling that a country with such a rich football history has still never played a competitive knockout game in the final stages of a tournament, even though they have qualified for 11 such events since 1954.

Brazil (5 wins), Germany and Italy (both with 4 wins) lead the footballing world with their World Cup performances, yet can only secure 7th, 8th and 5th places respectively in UFWC all-time rankings. The surprising one is the Russians/Soviets in 6th place, a country who have often bottled it at many recent tournaments, but not as bad as the Scots!

Do you agree that the UFWC system is a far more realistic way of measuring world champions than that dubious FIFA tournament we see every four years? For the up-to-date full table, please click UFWC Rankings.

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When could Cymru become champions again?

With the Azzurri being the current UFWC holders, it just so happened that Cymru were drawn in Euro2020 Group A with them, along with Switzerland and Turkey.

As mentioned previously, Sunday 20th June 2021 saw Cymru with the first opportunity to become champions again since 1988, but the strong Italian squad continued their impressive form when beating Gareth Bale’s brave team 1-0 on their way to becoming European Champions.

With the UFWC title likely to stay in Europe during 2021 and 2022, and Cymru being promoted to League A for the 2022/23 Nations League, there will always be the chance of another shot at the title, as long as a European nation wins the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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Further information on UFWC

To gather further details on UFWC, you can visit:

UFWC official website,

@UFWC_Football twitter page,

@ufwc_corner fan page on twitter, or

UFWC Wikipedia page.

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And finally…

To create some heated sporting debate, who do you feel are currently the world’s best team?

Argentina, 2021 Copa América Winners

Belgium, FIFA World Ranked No.1

Brazil, FIFA World Ranked No.2

France, 2018 World Cup Winners, 2021 Nations League Winners & Current UFWC Title Holders

Italy, 2021 European Champions

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